Nageh v Giddings (TCC - 8.12.2006)
NAGEH v GIDDINGS
Technology and Construction Court
His Honour Judge Peter Coulson QC
8th December 2006
The project for which homeowner engaged the architects, who were formerly a married couple went wrong and the architects terminated their contract. The homeowner (i) commenced adjudication proceedings against them resulting in the award of a specified sum to her (ii) commenced enforcement proceedings against the architects which they did not participate in (iii) served a statutory demand in respect of the judgment sum and (iv) obtained a final charging order in respect of the architects’ interest in their former matrimonial home. The architects applied to set aside the summary judgment on the basis that they were unaware of the enforcement proceedings. The homeowner’s solicitors served the claim form, other court documents, the order for summary judgment and the subsequent applications for charging orders on what they believed to be the architects’ former matrimonial home and principal place of business.
Judge Coulson held that the summary judgment ordered against the architects to enforce the adjudicator’s award should not be set aside on the ground that they had no knowledge of the enforcement proceedings.
There was no reasonable excuse for the delay of over a year after the architects became aware of the summary judgment before they applied to set it aside. The husband’s reliance on the fact that he was suffering from a nervous breakdown which affected the architects’ ability to make the application until relatively recently was misplaced on the evidence. The notes at paragraph 6.5.4 of the White Book suggested that the claimant had to take reasonable steps to locate the defendant. On the evidence it would appear that the homeowner's solicitors did all that they reasonably could to locate the architects prior to service because they served the documents on their (i) last known residential address only after having had the property’s ownership by them confirmed by the Land Registry and (ii) principal place of business only after having had it confirmed by RIBA that that was the last contact address which it had for them and by Companies House, which had a company (Area Architects Ltd) registered at the address. The answer to the architects’ criticisms of the service on their principal place of business that they had left the property by the time of the service of the documents was that they had failed to leave any sort of forwarding address and to notify either RIBA or Companies House of a new address at which that firm of architects could be contacted.